In Indonesia, a 7-Eleven with meal options and more

With a new store format, the c-store chain caters to the busy lives of its customers in Jakarta

Convenience stores don’t have it easy these days. Competition is swatting them from all sides, and people no longer habitually stop at the corner store every morning to pick up a newspaper, milk or cigarettes. In Canada, c-store sales fell 3.8% in June, to $558 million, in the last year alone.

The good news: There’s an abundance of innovation happening in convenience stores. Some of it is taking place in North America. But most is halfway around the world in Asia.

I’m especially impressed with 7-Eleven in Jakarta, Indonesia (pictured at right). Rather than plop down a cookie-cutter version of its American stores, 7-Eleven did an exceptional job tailoring assortment and services to deliver on both convenience and leisure-shopping missions.

Jakarta is huge. More than 10 million people call it home. The city is young, vibrant and has a modern retail land- scape to match the rising affluence of its citizens.

Before entering the market, 7-Eleven spent two years doing shopper research. A visit to the busy Matraman district store shows that research paid off. 7-Eleven has made the 2,700-square-foot store a destination by offering services that Jakartans regularly need.

Take the 24-hour, in-store taxi ordering service. In a city where finding a licensed taxi is tough, this service adds an extra dimension and is a big hit with women at night. And, of course, while waiting for a cab, patrons can grab a drink and a snack.

Technology plays an important role at this 7-Eleven. Digital kiosks offer a huge range of services, from the ability to pay utility bills to buy travel and concert tickets.

Plasma screens advertise the latest promotions, while free and fast Wi-Fi lets shoppers stay connected to the Internet on their smartphones.

7-Eleven’s favourite way to speak with customers in Indonesia is through social media. As a result it has more Twitter followers (more than 86,000) in Indonesia than in any of its other global markets, despite a network of just 123 stores in Indonesia.

Canadians don’t think of c-stores as places to relax. But the Jakarta 7-Eleven gives shoppers a reason to sit down. It has three seating areas, including an upstairs open-air terrace and parasol-shaded tables just outside the store where customers can enjoy entertainment on a large, cinema-sized roadside screen.

On any given day, people eat breakfast at the tables before heading to work, families enjoy a quick meal and students meet up with friends. Fifty per cent of the store’s space is devoted to foodservice and shoppers who buy something to eat typically stay 15 to 30 minutes.

As you can imagine, the food and drinks have to be good. Freshly brewed coffee is locally sourced and can be jazzed up with a choice of free syrups. Fried chicken is delivered daily and heated behind the counter to keep the store smelling fresh.

These best-selling products deliver on quality. But crucially, they also deliver on value for money, and are competitively priced compared to the growing number of rival foodservice outlets.

The store also sells doughnuts, hotdogs, individually bagged bananas and a wide range of ready-meals that shoppers can heat themselves in a microwave. As for 7-Eleven’s classic Slurpees, the “mix it the way you like it” strapline on cups and signage reflects Indonesian shoppers’ inclination to blend flavours, which are regularly changed to add variety.

IGD has tipped Indonesia as the world’s fifth most promising emerging grocery market (after China, Brazil, Russia and Turkey). Grocery sales are forecast to reach US$247 billion by 2016, up from $168 billion last year. As retailers look to capture this growth, 7-Eleven’s new take on convenience is worth watching. So grab a Slurpee and have a seat. There are lots right outside the store.

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